WOW! Did anyone else out here notice that locomotive that roared full-bore through the Senate Public Health Committee today, as SB709 was set for a visit?
As the engineer (Chairman), Senator Percy Malone, grabbed for the whistle to get the train movin,’ people filed in like slabs of beef in a refrigerator car until there wasn’t an inch of space to spare.
It was quite evident from the strike of the gavel that Chairman Malone was going to ensure a fair and balanced debate this morning…NOT (This means I’m kidding).
The meeting hadn’t gotten a full head of steam when Malone suggested time limits for each side. If he’d had it his way, it was evident to me the committee would’ve passed this stop all together. The meeting began at 10 a.m. and was over just shy of 11, with more than a dozen folks slated to speak. So much for open and reasonable debate in conducting the people’s bidness.
I’ll not belabor the blow-by-blow. However two people I spoke with after the meeting, who had traveled from out of state just to testify for this particular bill, were shocked at the way things went.
Christie Herrera, Director Health and Human Services Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and John Nothdurft, Director of Government Relations for the Heartland Institute both travel extensively to testify before legislative bodies all over the country. They shared with me that, in their experience, neither had felt so “railroaded” before. They each recognized quickly that the committee meeting was nothing more than a formality to a predestined end, regardless of what expertise they each brought to the table. In other words, my friends, the thing had been all planned out beforehand.
It was no surprise that the Attorney General’s office showed to testify against the bill, as did a few other government agencies, to which one observer said and was later tweeted by @AFPArkansas: “What happened today was as follows: the gov’t lobbying the gov't for more gov't.” No truer synopsis of the day.
The end of the tracks for SB709 was a split vote 4-4 straight down party lines.
The bug slinger here was Senator David Burnett (D-Osceola) who, up until today’s steamrolling, was considered relatively conservative. He ran last November unopposed, I somehow doubt that happens again.
I’m sure the fact that this is Governor Beebe’s pet project had nothing to do with the speed at which engineer Malone ran his locomotive through today’s session. But as with all speeding trains at some point there is a stop. And it can be ugly to watch.
That’s when passengers that have been riding along for long time without feeling appreciated or respected can become quite disgruntled. That usually means they search for find a new carrier who will listen to them and give a whistle about meeting their needs and concerns.
My hope and prayer is that this happens well before this high velocity engine jumps the tracks, leaving untold numbers of Arkansans among the carnage and wreckage.
As a side note here is a statement released today on this issue from our Lt. Governor Mark Darr:
"I appreciate Senator Missy Irvin’s efforts today to help bring to light the cost of implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Senate Bill 709, would have provided to the legislature as well as Arkansans the total cost of this act to our state, how many individuals will directly be affected and the consequences of not implementing it. As a candidate I traveled the state talking about the importance of government transparency and spoke openly against government mandated healthcare. Senator Irvin’s bill would have simply provided the accountability and transparency citizens demand from our Government. We all have the right to better understand how PPACA is going to affect each and every one of us. I applaud the four Senators who voted for this bill in committee as well as the many citizens who lined the hallways, placed calls and emails in support of this bill.”
Other articles you may want to read on the issue: